Batkid Rules: June 2015 Movie Preview

M: There are only a handful of wide releases coming to theaters in June, some of them of the variety that busts the block. We expect Jurassic World will bring in some serious coin, as should Inside Out. The latter might even be a good movie.

C: The premise is pretty weird, but Pixar’s hit rate is unquestionable.

M: That it is, as we’ll discuss. However, while some of the big offerings this month do look promising, we’re much more excited for a small documentary about a boy with leukemia.

E: I agree — this month’s slate of prospective tentpoles doesn’t thrill me nearly so much as that intensely moving and celebratory documentary.

C: And here I assumed you’d be more excited for A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, E!

M: You and me both, sis!

Week 1 – Entourage, Spy, Insidious 3, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, A Pigeon Sat On a Branch Reflecting on Existence, Testament of Youth, Love & Mercy

Week 2 – Jurassic World, Live From New York, Madam Bovary, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I Am Here

Week 3 – Inside Out, Dope, Infinitely Polar BearBalls Out, The Overnight

Week 4 – Batkid Begins, Max, Ted 2, Big Game, A Little Chaos

June 5

Entourage (wide)

M: Having never had HBO, I missed the entire run of the show that was loosely based on Mark Wahlberg’s life, where he and his friend from the projects navigate sudden stardom in LA. The movie’s also directed by Wahlberg, btw.

C: Whoa. I didn’t even know that. I never saw the show either, though.

M: Seriously, how did you not know that?!?!? Anyway, according to everything I’ve heard, they’ve tried to make it so that won’t matter, and new audience members can pick up everything they need to quickly. Plus, I’ve seen Wahlburgers, so I know most of the real-life versions of the characters.

E: I have HBO — though not from the start of this series — and I’ve never been interested in it.  On the one hand, yes, I’m intrigued by Hollywood and the creative process, and I appreciate the idea of a guy’s regular friends keeping him grounded.

M: Oh, if you’ve seen Wahlburgers, you’d know that the words “regular” and “grounded” are both a bit off base.

E: And here I was thinking that was the good part.  On the other, I have this impression of the series as a kind of glossy, immature frat boy fest.

M: Maybe not frat boys exactly, but that sounds closer to accurate.

C: Bro fest? Glossy bros?

M: Haha, not glossy, no.

E: Manscaped, then?

M: That’s probably more like it.

E: Anyway, despite the presence of Jeremy Piven in a critically lauded role, I’ve never cared about checking this out.  And now that it’s a movie, I… still don’t care.  Not even for the Tom Brady cameo.

M: Which, oddly enough, is one of two this month!

C: It’s just surprising to me that there’s an audience for a movie version of this. I suppose just because I never talked to anyone who liked it doesn’t mean there isn’t a thriving fan base who still remembers it fondly. Let’s test out how it sounds as a headline: “Adrian Grenier, Still Relevant.” Hmmm…

M: I know a bunch of people who loved the show, actually, but I agree, it seems like it’s a few years too late. In case anyone’s wondering, the plot seems to be an over-sized episode of the show, where Grenier’s character (Wahlberg character) is at a precipice in his career, where he might not recover from a failed project, and how that impacts Ari, Johnny Drama, Turtle and the boys.

Spy (wide)

M: The Melissa McCarthy love-fest continues.

E: YAY!  This story of an analyst heading out into the field for the first time (with disguises and hilarity ensuing on the way) interests me way more than anything I’ve ever seen her do.

C: Wow. That all-caps yay was so much more enthusiasm than you’ve ever show for her, you genuinely startled me.

M: Hee hee, agreed, I didn’t see that coming, especially since I was less than enthused in my initial comment. Not that that comes across well in text. And look, don’t get me wrong, I think McCarthy is at times hilarious, and feel like this could be really funny, but after Identity Theft and especially Tammy, shouldn’t we be pumping the brakes at least a little?

E: What, like Hollywood did with Eric Bana and Colin Farrell?

M: First, don’t you wish someone HAD pumped the brakes on the Eric Bana and Colin Farrell trains? Second, I find it insulting to Melissa McCarthy that you would lump her in with those two.

C: She is, for one thing, more consistently successful (albeit on a smaller-but-steady scale) than either of them. Spy has a pretty great concept, featuring McCarthy as a CIA analyst who only does desk work until the field agent she works closely with (Jude Law) is killed and she goes undercover to avenge him.

M: So, Miss Congeniality, crossed with every cop movie where the partner’s death motivates the main character. I’m hip.

C: I thought of that movie too. I did hope for a minute there that Law was going to be her love interest, but I suppose I should have known Hollywood better than that.

M: Why do we even get our hopes up at this point?

E: I’ve seen very little of McCarthy’s body of work, but I have in general a very positive image of her.  So I’m really pleased that she’s in a movie that (unlike Tammy and Identity Theft) I’m really interested in seeing.  I’m totally down with the espionage trappings — disguises, gadgets — and the whole fish out of water comedy, too.  I love her costar, Miranda Hart, who plays the delightful Chummy on Call the Midwife. Also, I’m glad Hollywood continues to take a chance on a plus-sized female comedian and I’m happy to be able to support that, both on the blog and quite possibly with my own money at the multiplex.

M: I’ve seen quite a bit, the majority peripherally: my wife and now 15-year-old daughter watch and LOVE Gilmore Girls, which she was one of the main supporting characters on.

C: She was delightful on that show, albeit a fairly one-note character.

M: Agreed. I’ve never been a fan, but the dialog and quirkiness are great, and she was a big part of that. Now, I’ve also seen some of Mike and Molly — which is solid — and films like Bridesmaids and The Heat, both of which are a funny and she is fantastic in. I’m definitely a fan, as well as being pleased that she can break typical Hollywood molds.

E: Bridesmaids.  That’s all I got. I do really need to binge on Gilmore Girls at some point, though, and I’ll totally see her in the Ghostbusters reboot.

M: Oh, I’m totally on board and excited for the female-cast Ghostbusters reboot, especially if she’s confirmed to be in it.

E: She is, so get ready to pre-purchase your tickets.

M: Aside from the general McCarthy commentary, I agree with you that this looks like it could be worth my money. It has a really solid supporting cast (in addition to Law, we have Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, and Morena Baccarin) and some really funny moments in the trailers. That said, like any comedy, the trailers could be showing the only funny moments.

E: The early reviews seem very positive, so like I said, I’ve got hope.

Insidious 3 (wide)

M: I feel like I’ve successfully blacked out versions 1 and 2, I’m hoping when Insidious 4 shows up on this list I feel the same about this current offering.

C: No doubt at that time we’ll say “there was an Insidious 3? Huh.”

E: And I don’t think anyone who reads this space will be surprised to see us uninterested in a slasher flick (even a prequel starring Dermot Mulroney).

M: Honestly, I don’t think there’s much else for us to say here. If you’re a fan of the first two, and horror/slasher flicks about evil spirits in general, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If not, you’ll probably pass. Either way, I don’t think there’s any in between here.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (limited)

M: **Warning** I could not find a “clean” trailer for this. That said, in an effort to make up for the lack of total volume of wide releases this month, we are endeavoring to at least keep up the total volume of words in the titles of the movies. In this case we present you with a documentary about the whacky 80’s duo that launched Cannon Films, and made movies that didn’t care one bit about quality. Their tent pole films were “hits” like Masters of the Universe and Over The Top, and anything that “the two Chucks” (Norris and Bronson) made. In other words, it’s 80’s camp heaven.

C: Chuck Bronson is a famous person? I mean, was one? Should I have heard of him? Chuck Norris and his deadly roundhouse kick, of course I know.

E: Charles Bronson, but yes.

M: Sometimes I forget how young C is. Or how old we are. Ugh.

E: Not thinking about that.  And okay, maybe it’s a little obscure, but come on.  How could I not include anything with the title Electric Boogaloo?

M: No argument there! It actually looks like it could be fun. Not something to see in the theater, but still.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (limited)

M: **Warning** I could not find a trailer that makes sense for this. In a normal month, this would be the longest title for a movie being released, In any month, including this one, it might be the most bizarre.

C: But the title is AMAZING, guys! Is this pure brilliant parody or what? If you were going to make up a title of an inexplicable art film to use as a gag in your mainstream film, this would be it. Can’t you just see the bit, where the manic pixie dreamgirl wants to go see A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence while the clueless guy who loves her wants to see Kickpuncher 2: Codename Punchkicker?

M: What are you smoking?

C: Never mind, M. That one went over your head.

E: Alas, I don’t think it’s parody, and it looks like the film itself does not actually make linear sense.

M: Based on what I saw in the trailer, I’m not even looking for linear sense, I’m looking for individual scenes, heck moments in scenes, that make sense. It has competition on the bizarre front, some from movies you’d expect (like Balls Out) but also from movies you wouldn’t (like Big Game). Still, I think this is the early favorite oddest film of the year.

E: Yes. It looks particularly odd. I couldn’t resist the title, though, or the fact that it seems to be quite well reviewed.

M: And in and of itself THAT means something. Oh wait…

C: It is sort of surprising. Sitting on a branch doesn’t sound all too cinematic.

E: It looks like something I might have felt obliged to see in my early twenties in order to feel like I had real film geek cred.  Now, however, I am old enough not to feel the need to waste my time.

M: *slowly picking self up off floor* Uhhh… what? Who…. huh?

C: Wow. Readers, you don’t even know what a crazy moment this is. E just called an art film a waste of time!

Testament of Youth (limited)

M: An epic-looking film adaptation of British writer and activist Vera Brittain’s renowned autobiography, starring Ex Machina‘s Alicia Vikander in a less android-y role, as well as Kingsman‘s Taron Egerton as her brother and Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington as her fiancee.

C: I just had to double-check that his name really is Harington, not Harrington. But it is. What will they think of next.

M: Exploding socks. Quick side note on Harington: he was also in Pompeii, but sadly I’m referring to the feature film, not the video of the Bastille song.

C: That is sad.

E: He does get to fight zombies (like the ones in the Bastille video) in his regular job, though, and pretty spectacularly, I might add.

M: There is that.

C: Anyway, this film takes on the earlier part of Brittain’s life, which involved sexist repression, a bit of love, and a whole lot of despair, due to World War I.

E: In the trailer, when Harington (almost unrecognizably round-faced without Jon Snow’s beard) tells Vikander how stirring and wonderful it is for his generation to be involved in the Great War, I want to weep for the losses I know that history will inflict on them instead.  It looks, indeed, painfully wonderful.

M: When he tells her she MUST write, on the other hand, it’s uplifting and inspiring.

E: Also starring Dominic West and Emily Watson as Vikander and Egerton’s parents, with Hayley Atwell, Miranda Richardson and Anna Chancellor thrown in just to overwhelm you with British awesomeness.

C: Dang, that is a good cast. I might see anything that promises me some Hayley Atwell, frankly.

M: I’d never heard of Vikander before Ex Machina, but now she seems to be really bursting onto the scene.

E: Totally. The entertainment press seems ready to anoint Vikander the It-Girl of the summer, partly due to her upcoming role in August’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E, costarring Armie Hammer and C’s darling Henry Cavill; we’ll see if that happens.

M: Liking both Hammer and Cavill, that’s one that I’m really hoping is good. I think its production quality won’t be as good as this, but the entertainment value might be higher.

E: But to sum up this movie, I think we all agree it looks well-made, intelligent and sad.  The early reviews are positive, too. Not your average summer movie, but worth checking out nonetheless.

Love & Mercy (limited)

M: In addition to trying to include movies with really long titles, we figured we’d include just about every smaller movie that’s opening this first weekend. So we present you with a seven-movie weekend!

E: Hey, there’s nothing wrong with offering people a choice!

M: Ok, you’re not likely to go to the theaters to see seven movies in one weekend (and we’d advise against going to see the likes of Electric Boogaloo and Pigeon), but this is another critical darling that looks like it could be really good. It’s the story of Brian Wilson, of Beach Boys fame, told interspersingly at two different points in his life.

E: That’s so not a word.  But yes, the movie’s getting some attention — or trying to drum up attention for itself — for the unusual tactic of two people playing the same role not in chronological order, but flashing back and forth between the early successful period and the later damaged one.

M: Exactly what I said, interspersingly.  😉  Anyway, Wilson’s played by Paul Dano and 80’s teen cult hero John Cusak. The movie looks not only to explore Wilson’s famous psychoses, but also his creepy therapist who took over his life in, appropriately for Cusak, the 80’s. Paul Giamatti supports as the therapist, and Elizabeth Banks joins on as the 80’s love interest, who looks to save him (with mercy, perhaps?).

E: And with love.  Which also turns out to be the title of one of his songs!  Shocking.  It also sounds like it spends tons of time in the recording studio, especially seeing Wilson create the revolutionary masterpiece that is Pet Sounds, and critics are raving about both the structure and the performances. I have one question, though.  Wasn’t he supposed to be 300 pounds at this point?  Did the BNL song lie, or Hollywood decide it was just easier to see svelte Cusack in a love story and edit all that out?

M: I was wondering the same thing, actually.

June 12

Jurassic World (wide)

M: Chris Pratt continues his transformation from schlubby-but-endearing Andy Dwyer into ACTION STAR CHRIS PRATT!!!

C: Pretty sure that transformation happened with Guardians of the Galaxy and is 100% complete. But you still see jolly Andy glimmers in his eye, and they will always make me smile.

M: I did say “continues”, and I disagree that it’s complete. I liked Guardians well enough, am impressed by his physical transformation, and find him to be likable (especially when he does things like issuing a pre-apology for the hypothetical insensitive comment that he is sure to make at some point doing press junkets for this movie). Still, I’m not quite buying into ACTION STAR CHRIS PRATT just yet. I fully expected both of you to argue that with me, however.

E: No, not necessarily.  I’m not sold on that yet.  I like him, and I like that our definitions are more plastic than your disbelief implies, but it’s certainly fair to say that one film doesn’t necessarily give an actor control of a genre.

C: I’m not sure what you mean, honestly. Isn’t starring in a successful action movie “being an action star”? If not, how else do you define it? Liam Neeson is a flipping action star now, and the fact that we couldn’t have seen that coming doesn’t make it any less true.

M: Okay, I take your point, but one film isn’t the bar for “action star” for me. I agree with E about the “more plastic” definitions, but that wasn’t where I was going at all. I’ve always loved actors and actresses who can be chameleons, changing from role to role, not getting type-cast. It’s why Ben Kingsley and Gary Oldman are two of my favorites. They play heroes, villains, side-kicks, supporting characters, comedy, drama, action. I’m a huge fan of that. With Pratt, I see people touting him as the next Indiana Jones, and I bristle. I’m not there yet that I trust him to be good in that role. Or this one, especially where the second, and especially third, Jurassic movies left me not trusting the franchise.

E: Oh. Well. That’s something different than just being an action star. The Indiana Jones thing, for me, isn’t about Chris Pratt at all. It’s that Indie isn’t Hamlet. You don’t need one in every generation: there is only one, already perfectly preserved on film, and pretenders to the throne are unnecessary.

C: Yes, I think “why should there be a new Indiana Jones” is a much better question than “who should it be.”

M: On that we certainly agree. I bring it up because I’m resigned to the fact that the money-grubbers in Hollywood will most definitely bring it back. So now I’m looking at it through a lens of “who will not only not screw it up, but would actually be reasonably right for the role.” Not being sold on ACTION STAR CHRIS PRATT makes me worried about him being attached. Unlike Harrison Ford or even the aforementioned Liam Neeson, I think he needs more gravitas.

E: So we’ll have to wait until that’s official and not just a fan pipe dream before we freak out about it. Now, Jurassic World itself, okay. I like the premise (they really did build a working theme park, which inevitably goes wrong) and I’ll be fascinated to see whether they pulled it off.  The trailer hasn’t sold me.

M: No, definitely not. I’m hoping they’re just trying to not give too much away. Maybe.

E: Maybe the Jurassic premise — look, super realistic, smart and scary dinosaurs! — is the kind of parlor trick that can only work once?  Maybe there’s no way to recapture the magic of the original.

M: I don’t think so, I think the right story, combined with the right director, could recapture it. Especially since there’s still so much of the original source material (like, you know, almost the entire plot of the first book) to draw from.

C: And here’s where I come in as the family grump. What magic of the original? Other than the John Williams score, I mean? It was a great spectacle with a serviceable plot and serviceable acting, which people now revere as a “classic” primarily because the special effects were so impressive in their day. Do people watch Jurassic Park again and again? Do people dress up as the characters for Halloween? I think it was a perfectly good ephemeral action movie that people look back on as great through a nostalgic haze. If the first film sets a high bar, it’s only the thrill value of seeing well-rendered dinosaurs in a modern setting that maybe can’t be replicated — except for a new generation.

M: Seriously, must you rub your youth in our faces repeatedly? The original was a classic like Jaws was a classic. No one dresses up as Quint (or the shark), but that doesn’t make it less of a classic. And besides, there’s an entire section of Universal Studios for Jurassic Park. That should be telling. Just because you were too young to appreciate it, and effects have skyrocketed past it, doesn’t make it any less of a classic.

Live From New York! (limited)

M: A documentary (honestly, it’s not a mockumentary) about SNL. Seems a bit self-aggrandizing, but you never know.

E: Well, of course lots of the interviews are self-congratulatory.  I mean, whoever made it clearly likes the show, as do the former cast members who talk in it.  I can forgive that.

C: Seems like it would be more successful on TV, to my mind. Didn’t they do something like this for the recent big anniversary?

E: They did, and I really wonder if this is the same footage repackaged. I absolutely don’t need to see this in the theater, but it might be interesting to watch on the small screen later.  Of course, who am I kidding?  I liked SNL, but I didn’t even watch the anniversary special on TV.

M: That’s what I mean. This has the feel of something NBC should have done and shown on a Sunday night during a slow TV period.

Madame Bovary (limited)

C: Another literary adaptation with the usual high gloss and lush costumes, most likely to appeal to big fans of the book… which doesn’t include me. (Embarrassing English teacher admission: I haven’t read it. Is that okay since it’s French?)

E: I saw a version of this in college (I believe with My Movie-Going Friend, a French major) which convinced me I never wanted to read the book.

M: I’ve avoided it as well, though more out of lack of interest than specific dislike. As much as I think Mia Wasikowska is a good actress, and it looks beautifully done, the whole “loveless marriage leads to passionate affair that you’re supposed to root for” plot is like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

C: Especially difficult to make into a good film, where the interest in the novel (I’m told) stems from the thoughtful rendering of the protagonist’s psychology.

E: And if that’s not bad enough, there’s the whole extended death from poisoning in the end to get you.  Vomitty joy, right there.

M: To tie in the SNL discussion, in the words of Dana Carvey: “Well isn’t that special!”

E: That was the other thing I took out of the movie: don’t ever try to kill yourself with arsenic. Vizzini and the iocane powder it ain’t.

M: And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the take away from this month’s post! Don’t ever try to kill yourself with arsenic!

C: You heard it here first.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (limited)

M: Another entry in the long title club. However, unlike Pigeon, I think this looks fantastic.

C: Yeah, despite the obvious sadness — there’s a dying girl, hello — this looks kind of… fun. It’s deliberately playing with and defying expectations for a Teen Cancer Movie, anyway.

E: This is one instance where indie quirk seems to properly intersect with real emotion.  The buzz on it is great, too.

M: It has the feel of something like Juno to me, a quirky, funny little picture that jokes about things that are sort-of inappropriate to joke about, but does it respectfully, and could end up being a sleeper hit.

E: Here’s the set up: at the prompting of his mother (Connie Britton), Greg sets off to make friends with Rachel, who’s just been diagnosed with leukemia.

C: You should also mention that is dad is Nick Offerman. I don’t care if he’s only in the trailer for 0.5 seconds. Ron Swanson!

M: Good weekend for Parks and Rec alum!

E: And SNL alum, because Molly Shannon is Rachel’s mom. Back to the plot: Greg and his best friend Earl, who make wacky home movies together, decide to make a film for Rachel.  It looks strange in a way that feels like the truth about art and alienation and friendship, about the way human beings can find humor even in the bleakest of situations, about learning to open up and learning to let go.

M: It’s told in flashback, too, with the premise being that it’s the year that “destroyed” Greg’s life. I can’t tell if it’s in a good or bad way, but either way it looks like it’s in a very well told way.

E: I know the subject matter’s grim, and it’s a lot less glossy and high profile than last summer’s The Fault In Our Stars, but this one could be special.

C: Just the fact that they actually become friends with the girl instead of falling in tear-soaked teen love with her makes me like it already!

M: I totally agree! They even mock that in the trailer, which is brilliant.

I Am Here (limited)

M: E, I know Kim Basinger’s in this and still a fairly big name, but why did this one make the cut for you? Rotten Tomatoes lists around 20 movies opening this weekend, including other luminaries like Rise of the Sea Urchins and Dude Bro Party Massacre III. I don’t want to review all of those, and after watching the trailer I really don’t want to review this creepfest.

E: Well, it’s definitely not a conventional creepfest.  Bassinger plays a woman desperate to have a child, at the end of 10 years of miscarriages and infertility, who decides at her husband’s insistence to try something new. And that turns out to be illegally adopting a baby from a Czech town where children are sold into sexual slavery.  Is she saving a child, or has it been stolen to fill her need? Oh, and she hears the voice of her future child repeatedly, whispering the title in her ear.  That hallucination’s probably what creeps M out.

C: Um, and rightfully.

E: Or I suppose it could be Peter Stormare, who seems to kidnap the would-be mother.

M: Yeah, Peter Stormare doesn’t help, but it’s much more than that. Plus, all I could think was “Why didn’t she just go steal an African child like Madonna did? It’s much less dangerous.”

E: I can’t believe you say things like that out loud.

C: Seriously, M. Listen to yourself. You sound like a monster who hates legal adoption, and the internet will not know that is false like we do.

M: Yes, because that was meant to be anything other than completely absurd. There REALLY needs to be a sarcasm font!

June 19

Inside Out (wide)

C: To begin with, a fun fact: my boyfriend recently attended a psychology research conference in NYC, and Pixar had a booth there to promote this movie. So apparently they feel pretty confident that this cartoon tale of the inner workings of child’s brain is scientifically accurate… or pretty confident that psychology researchers can be wooed by free stickers.

M: I’m going to go with the latter. Now, I don’t know why, but I am thoroughly underwhelmed by the look of this. I mean, I should be waiting with baited breathe to take my kids to this, right? It’s Pixar, which is as close to a guarantee as you can get. The cast is amazing, filled with top notch actors and comedians (and Amy Poehler). The concept is fun. Yet… I don’t know. The trailers and commercials just don’t do it for me.

C: Excuse me? Did you just say top notch actors and comedians AND Amy Poehler? Did you really just besmirch Amy Poehler in front of me? Do we have to take this outside? Say what you like about the film (I think it could be good), but STEP OFF AMY.

M: Yup. Bring it. I won’t go all Office Space and call her a no-talent ass-clown, but I will defend my dislike for her one note attempts to make me laugh by being holier-than-thou for all things she likes.

C: You are just so wrong, and so ignorantly saying this while not having even watched Parks and Rec–

E: Break it up, break it up. Movie preview, guys. I’m happy to see Pixar working on something that’s not a sequel. Not that they don’t do a great job with Toy Story 2 and 3 (other than the terrible names) but still, fresh territory is a good. So for that reason, I’m willing to give this film a chance, even if I’m not entirely sold on the premise or as wowed as I’d prefer to be by the trailer.  The premise, by the way, presumes that all people have five little critters who represent emotions living in their heads and controlling their actions. Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness — rather a grim crew if you think about it — rule the heads of children and adults alike.

C: If you dislike the crew, take it up with Paul Ekman, famous psychologist who named them the five “basic emotions.”

E: Maybe I will!  The trouble begins when Joy and Sadness both get sucked into a young girl, Riley’s “core memories,” and Sadness accidentally touches one, tainting Riley’s past.

C: I think the characters are Riley’s emotions, and the catalyst for Sadness affecting her past is an upsetting move to a new place. The movie seems to balance showing what’s happening “outside,” in Riley’s life, and “inside,” in her mind — explaining her emotional journey through the metaphorical hi-jinks her personified emotions get up to.

E: I wondered if there was also a little bit of pre-pubescent angst going on there too, but yes, the move is an important part of the mess.  We should mention that fantastic voice cast, don’t you think? In addition to the afore-debated Poehler (whom I approve, for the record), there’s Mindy Kaling, Rashida Jones, Diane Lane, Kyle McLachlan (presumably playing a better Dad than he portrays on Agents of SHIELD), Lewis Black, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Paula Poundstone and Laraine Newman. Wowsa.

C: The premise is indeed unusual (although I’ve actually read a grown-up novel that does something similar, in a darker way), but the cast is persuasive, particularly the match-up between the actors and the five emotions: Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from The Office) as Sadness, Hader as Fear, Black as Anger, and Kaling as Disgust. Most of the comedy, expect, comes from the interactions of the latter three after the first two get lost.

Dope (wide)

C: I can’t totally decide, but I think this looks kind of cute. I love that the main characters are a trio of pedantic 90s-hip-hop-obsessed nerds, and aside from protagonist Shameik Moore, one is a girl and the other is the fantastic Tony Revolori of The Grand Budapest Hotel claiming to be 14% black (“!”). Someone once observed that teen movies about white kids are comedies and teen movies about black kids are dramas, so I’m already rooting for it since it’s breaking that mold. The trailer begins with Moore’s character applying to Harvard, knowing he needs something to make him stand out beyond being a black kid raised by a single mom in a bad neighborhood. What I can’t tell from the trailer is how this all will turn out.

M: I agree, it’s good to get out of the movie stereotypes!

E: I have no idea how it will turn out, either. Watching this trailer — with Moore’s ambitious nerd accidentally ending up with a backpack full of drugs — stressed me out.  I want him to get into college!  I want him to stay away from Zoe Kravitz and her drug dealer boyfriend!  I want his friend to keep her shirt on!  Eek!

M: I did love the Just One of the Guys reference, though. C, no comments, we know you were too young.

C: Yeah, the fact that they end up selling drugs, even in a funny inept way, makes me wonder. Also the fact that the film’s biggest marketing point is a soundtrack by Pharrell. At least you know it’ll be catchy?

E: Despite my fears, there’s something retro-cute and smart looking about it.  I’m curious to see how well it does.

C: Yeah, it’s almost got an 80s high school movie vibe. Just with actual non-white people.

E: Yeah, which is pretty great.  Viva la difference!

Infinitely Polar Bear (limited)

C: Speaking of actual non-white people, Zoe Saldana (who I love) co-stars in this with white person Mark Ruffalo (who I also love), though it seems their eldest daughter is the focal character of the film.

M: Quick aside. Little tidbit I just learned from a skincare care commercial… Did you guys know Zoe Saldana is part Lebanese?!?!

C: No way! Awesomesauce!

E: I did not, and I really want to know how that came up in a skin care commercial. And why you were watching a skin care commercial that closely.  And why our sister is using “who” instead of “whom.”

C: I think by now our readers must have noticed that I, the English teacher, am far less a grammar Nazi than my two sibs.

M: As for me and the commercial, come to think of it, it might be makeup, not skincare. Anyway, whatever company it is has this “my skin is made up of different stuff, but product x is just right for me” campaign. In the “different stuff” section they list the woman’s ancestry. And I noticed it because I saw the word “Lebanese” on screen, so I rewound. Now let’s get back to the polar bears.

E: Let’s, because we have another contender for the weirdest title of the month.  In this case, “polar bear” is what one of Mark Ruffalo’s young daughters calls his bipolar disorder.  He begins taking care of the two girls in Boston as his estranged wife (Saldana) attends grad school in New York City.

C: Saldana insists that having full responsibility for the girls will give him “structure,” but they find it profoundly embarrassing, since he’s super erratic. I’m actually not sure from the trailer if the couple are estranged, or if he’s been living apart from them because of his illness. They seem to love each other.

E: Indeed, it doesn’t seem like a clearly defined situation.

M: I think it’s both, really. Also, it’s not set present day. I think it’s the 70’s, maybe, but definitely at a time when awareness of bi-polar, along with treatment options, was much worse.

E: Though it’s not something I see myself running to the theater to catch, I really like the look of this.  Biracial family, mental illness — it’s refreshingly different from what you usually see on screen.  (The 11 year age difference between the leads, not so much.)  Well, actually, you see a decent amount of mental illness, especially in indie films, but the filmmakers don’t appear to be playing this solely for laughs or quirkiness, which is the refreshing part.

C: Yeah, I’ll definitely watch for the reviews. It looks like it could be good.

Balls Out (limited)

C: Finally, a short title that really cuts to the chase… :/

M: A strange, strange looking comedy about intramural football at an unknown college. It looks like it’s supposed to be an 80’s frat comedy, right down to the “Orion Pictures” opening credit. There doesn’t appear to be much plot, other than pickup football, and hijinks.

E: Well, that was an education.  The only person in this cast I’d heard of was Nikki Reed, though it turns out that Beck Bennet is on Saturday Night Live.  The snake eats its tail!

M: If I’d watched SNL in the last 10 years would I get that reference?

E: No.  Definitely not. Anyway, my big question is, who thought it’d be a good idea to make a movie about college intramural football staring a bunch of 35-year-olds?

C: Well you couldn’t cast 28-year-0lds, everyone would assume they were high school students!

M: Fair point.

E: Crass, stereotype-filled, and ridiculous looking.  And not in a good way.

M: Agreed. Although the two random commentators (just in the stands, with no mics, btw) cracked me up.

The Overnight (limited)

M: I know we should describe the movie first, but I have to start with the best line of the trailer, “This is California, maybe this is what dinner parties are like.”

C: This describing something the trailer repeatedly calls a “sex romp.”

E: Is it fair to assume everyone in California is a crazy swinger who picks up parents on the playground and introduces them to a night of debauchery and wackiness? But C, look, it’s your boy Adam Scott!

C: I do love Adam Scott, but I maybe don’t need to see him in a sex romp, and I definitely do not need to see him with that goatee. Yuck. (By the way, is there such a clothing item as a “sex romper”? But I digress.) Also stars Taylor Schilling of Orange is the New Black, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche (who I’m going to guess is here to bring a sexy French accent, rather than more comedy cred, into the mix).

M: Yes, big month for Parks and Rec!

C: Only always, because that show was full of freaking winners.

M: And Amy Poehler. 🙂

E: Dude.  You are so asking for it.

C: You better sleep with one eye open the next time I’m in town, that’s all I can say.

M: But yeah, E summed it up well. Two couples, one new to LA, meet while their only children play at a playground. The longtime LA residents (Schwartzman and Godrèche) invite the new-to-towners (Scott and Schilling) to dinner. Dinner goes well, but when the young boys bed times arrive, instead of leaving, Scott and Schilling take up their hosts on the offer to put the boys to bed and keep partying. All sorts of escapades ensue, prompting the line I started this with. I think I’ll pass.

June 26

Batkid Begins (limited)

M: So, C and I make fun of E all the time about how she will cry at just about anything. Commercial for instant coffee with the slightest bit of nostalgia to it? Tears. Book about lemmings? Waterworks (not the kind that does the lemmings in, mind you). However, when it comes to this story about a 5 year old with leukemia who’s “wish” from the Make-A-Wish foundation involves the entire city of San Francisco turning him into Batman for a day, giving him a Batmobile, mysteries to solve, damsels in distress to save, and villains to apprehend. So in this case I’m right there with her. I’ve watched the trailer repeatedly, and tear up every time.

E: First of all, shut up.  Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean everyone else has to.

C: Very nice, Hermione!

M: Oh yes, because your “range” of going from crying to crying is so vast.

C: Also, what book about lemmings do the lemmings not go over the cliff in? …Maybe that’s not important right now.

E: Achem. Especially since the book about lemmings is a product of his snarky imagination.  Second, this movie looks awesome.

M: So awesome. Readers, we need to make this the surprise hit of the year/decade, the 2010’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding, if you will.

E: I defy you to watch this trailer, and not be moved by the capacity of human beings to be kind and do good and give one little cancer-fighting child the day of his life.  The scale and scope of what they’ve done is genuinely awe-striking.

M: Aw hell, I’m pushing back tears just thinking about it now. Seriously.

Max (wide)

C: Now we’ve left the territory of true life stories, but not of sad ones.

E: Highly sentimental story of a kid who buries his pain over his brother’s death in war by trying to rehabilitate his brother’s dog, who suffers from PTSD.

M: Max is the name of the dog, who was a combat dog, and bonded so much with the brother that he won’t leave the coffin. The brother, played by The Flash‘s Robbie Ammel, appears in some videos and flashbacks, making it more sentimental.

C: Lauren Graham, of Parenthood and the aforementioned Gilmore Girls, and Thomas Haden Church play the parents.

E: I’m a sap — this is well documented — but I like the movies I watch to genuinely earn my tears.  This is aimed at kids, so perhaps that’s why, but this doesn’t exactly seem subtle about going after them.

M: It’s strange, though. A bit into the trailer I thought I knew exactly where this was headed, where the kid and the dog would bond and help each other get over the loss. Then they introduced a kids-turn-detective-to-foil-bad-guys plot, and the tone changed into more of a tween-y movie, and I got lost. I don’t know what to make of it.

E: What I make of it is that I’m not interested in seeing it.

C: I think it’s a straight-up Kids’n’Animals Family Movie.

Ted 2 (wide)

C: Ah, the sequel to that wildly successful film designed to degrade and desecrate happy childhood memories of teddy bears.

E: In the continuing adventure of the over-sized, living teddy bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane, we find that Ted has gotten married and is hoping to have a baby with his human wife. But in order to do so, he needs first a sperm donor, and then legal recognition that he’s a person. Which leads, inevitably, to the courts.

M: I saw the first, and while there were moments that were funny, I was utterly underwhelmed. Well, except for the woman in the theater near me who gasped out loud when ***spoiler alert*** Ted got ripped in half. Her empathy for the raunchy, life-wrecking teddy bear really amused me.

E: So you were more amused by the audience than by the movie?  Noted.  To my total surprise, this preview made me laugh.  Mostly the bits where Ted and Mark Wahlberg try to be lawyers by yelling out random legal terms they’ve heard on TV.

M: Ted ad-libbing words to the Law and Order theme song cracked me up. The rest… meh.

C: This will make a huge amount of money, though, whether or not any of us goes. Which I will not.

E: Me neither. Wahlberg is joined this time by Amanda Seyfried (as Ted’s pot-smoking lawyer), Morgan Freeman, Richard Schiff, Michael Dorn, Dennis Haysbert, Ron Canada (trust me, you’ve seen him before), Tom Brady, and … Liam Neeson?

M: What movie wouldn’t be made better by the classic duo of Tom Brady and Liam Neeson?!?

Big Game (limited)

M: Remember above when I mentioned competition for the most bizarre movie of the month? Well, this is definitely it.

E: Here we have a totally gonzo adventure in which Airforce 1 gets shot down over Finland, and the President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson) has to survive being hunted by strangers and perfidious members of his own staff with only his wits and the help of a small but tough child.

M: You hammered me above for using “interspersingly,” which may not be a word, but is easily understood, and now you use “perfidious,” whatever that means? Geesh. I’m assuming it’s something like traitorous, but if it does I don’t know why you wouldn’t just say that.

C: Yeah but more people should know “perfidious” — it’s a fun way to say lying and scheming. More fun than trying to say “interspersingly.”

E: Thanks, sis. Anyway, yeah, Jackson appears to be his character from Snakes on a Plane, but having risen to the Presidency.

C: Because, duh. He fought SNAKES on a PLANE.

M: Now there’s an attempted coup, and as E mentioned he’s ejected from a crashing Air Force 1 (twice, actually, because once is so 2010), and stuck in the Finnish woods with a kid that I’m assuming is from some north-of-the-Arctic-circle tribe, but looks like he could be Mongolian, and should be in The Hunger Games.

E: He’s a tiny Mongolian Katniss!  I was shocked, frankly, to hear this was Finland.  Why is Finland trying to assassinate the POTUS?

M: Oh, I don’t think Finland is, I think that’s just where the plane ends up crashing.

C: So the baddies just happen to be lying in wait in Finland — as you do.

M: Obviously! But yes, Tiny Mongolian Katniss looks awesome. And, as the baddies chase them, we get to cue up the usual Samuel L. lines and big explosions. Wooooo!

A Little Chaos (limited)

E: Kate Winslet stirs up trouble as a revolutionary garden designer in the most opulent days of the French Baroque period.

C: Specifically as a consultant to the landscaping expert hired to oversee the palace of Versailles, to which she bring the titular chaos. Weird as it might be to see a female gardener historical romance, this looks very pretty and possibly good, except the whole infidelity thing.

M: Yes, the landscaper’s wife, Narcissa Malfoy, does not approve. Now, remember when this weekend’s other big name, Seth MacFarlane, hosted the Oscars? Remember his song in the opening monologue? The one that offended pretty much every actress ever? My first thought watching the trailer for this is “Yup, Kate Winslet’s going to prove his point. Again.”

E: He had a point?  I don’t even remember it.

C: Me neither. Something like “when I look at women all I see are breasts”?

M: Close, but no. The song was about him having already seen their breasts, and listing a movie they, um, displayed them in. Totally, utterly awkward. The point, though, was that for all the other actresses he mentioned one film, but with Winslet he went on and on, listing basically everything she’s ever been in. The point was she gets nekkid in everything she’s in. My point, which needed far too much explanation, is that this looks like it will be no exception.

E: I’m not convinced that qualifies as the point of the entire song, but, fine. There will be boobs.  The public has been warned.

M: Now, in fairness, there were plenty of non-breast related things in the trailer, too. Alan Rickman’s direction looks great, and in contrast to our usual complaints, Kate Winslet is older than her male co-star! Admittedly, it’s only by two years, but still.

E: That’s actually pretty awesome.

C: Yes! I’m waiting for reviews on this one too, with some hope.

M: And on that note we will bid you adieu for the month. Come on people, jump on board, and let’s make Batkid Begins the hit of the summer!


5 comments on “Batkid Rules: June 2015 Movie Preview

  1. ptully94 says:

    Missing from the list (especially one so rife with documentaries) is The Wolfpack. A family is kept in a NYC apartment under very strict circumstances. The brothers watch tons of movies to learn about the outside world and recreate scenes with homemade props and costumes. A filmmaker saw them playing on one of their rare outside excursions and befriended them and made the movie. June 12.

    • E says:

      Well, like M said, we have to triage a huge number of indie films, and my system for picking stuff to profile isn’t exactly scientific or full-proof. This looks incredibly captivating (pun intended) and I completely missed it.

      • ptully94 says:

        I read your blog to find out all sorts of movies on the way and am always fascinated by the scope of those you do include. It’s just so rare I have heard of one you haven’t. Anyway, some cool-looking things and I agree about “who/whom” in C’s comments.

  2. I have seen Ron Canada before! He played a Klingon lawyer on Deep Space Nine.

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